Canada is recognized as a premium producer and supplier of barley and malt to the global malting and brewing industries.
Varietal purity is a cornerstone of premium malting barley.
Producers have an important role in ensuring varietal purity in Canadian malting barley.
CANADA’S QUALITY BRAND
Canada’s reputation for quality malting and malted barley is our brand. It is based on our worldclass malting barley varieties, safe and efficient production methods, and robust quality assurance systems.
The malting barley varieties developed and registered for production in Canada have excellent quality as well as superb malting and brewing performance characteristics. They are recognized around the world as value-added products.
One of the cornerstones of Canada’s premium value proposition is our ability to produce, source and deliver malting barley with high-levels of varietal purity (e.g. >95%) to both domestic and international malt processors.
IMPORTANCE OF VARIETAL PURITY TO MALTSTERS
Varietal purity is important to producing high-quality malt. Each malting barley variety has different barley quality and malting performance characteristics e.g. different size kernels, varied rates of water absorption and processing times during malting. As a result, maltsters require malting barley with a high percentage of varietal purity to make a consistent, high-quality finished product. Malting and grain companies buying malting barley require a minimum 95% varietal purity specification on malting barley deliveries. Most malting barley buyers in international markets include a minimum 95% varietal purity specification in their contracts.
The ability of Canada’s malting barley supply chain to assure a high level of varietal purity to end-users is critical to Canada’s premium value proposition.
See the following joint information piece issued by the CMBTC, the Alberta Barley Commission, the Manitoba Crop Alliance and the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission on Varietal Purity in Canadian malting barley, entitled Varietal Purity – A Cornerstone of Canada’s malting barley value proposition.
Barley seeded area in Canada in 2022 was down 15.1% from 2021 to 7.044 mln acres, however with significantly improved growing conditions this year, barley production is estimated at 9.429 mln tonnes, above the previous 5 year average of 8.871 mln tonnes.
According to provincial crop insurance data, malting barley varieties accounted for 48.2% of barley seeded area in western Canada this year, which is down from the 5 year average of 55.3%, with the drop possibly driven by strong feed barley values and the high cost of certified seed this past year.
In terms of varieties, AC Metcalfe seeded area continued to decline this year, as did CDC Copeland, while AAC Synergy rose again, although only slightly, taking it to the number 2 spot among malting varieties. Seeded area of new varieties like AAC Connect, CDC Fraser and CDC Churchill also increased this year. With increased acceptance by maltsters and brewers both domestically and internationally, the CMBTC encourages producers to explore contracting opportunities with their local malting barley buyer for these new varieties for the 2023 growing season.
New malting barley varieties offer improved agronomics and disease resistance and are gaining
traction in the marketplace. In addition to established varieties, new ones like AAC Connect and
CDC Fraser are gaining commercial acceptance by Canadian and international maltsters and brewers. And with historically tight supplies, demand for Canadian malting barley is expected to be strong
in the 2022-23 marketing season.
This bulletin provides some perspectives for producers who are considering barley in their rotation in the
2022 growing season:
- Why malting barley may be a good crop to grow in 2022
- Malting barley seeding and production recommendations
- Which malting barley variety to choose
- Profiles: AAC Connect and CDC Fraser
WHY MALTING BARLEY MAY BE A GOOD CROP TO GROW IN 2022
New malting barley varieties have improved agronomics and disease resistance
- New malting barley varieties have seen considerable improvements in agronomics in recent years with better yields, lodging and disease resistance.
- With shorter and stronger straw, new malting barley varieties are less likely to lodge. These new varieties were bred to have moderate protein content, and as a result producers may be able to push them with nitrogen applications to maximize yield without developing excessive protein levels. Maltsters and brewers prefer protein content between 10-12.5%, however the industry will often accept upwards of 13.5%.
- New malting varieties have improved disease resistance compared with older varieties for leaf diseases including spot form net blotch and spot blotch. For areas where fusarium head blight can be an issue, AAC Connect has moderate genetic resistance against FHB which may result in reduced DON accumulation when combined with other management practices, including a fungicide application.
The tables below provide yield comparisons of the malting varieties contained on the CMBTC’s recommended list from the provincial seed guides (note that CDC Austenson, a feed variety, is included for comparison purposes). Farmers should check their provincial seed guides for more information on new varieties.
Premium for malting barley; Broader market opportunities
- If a producer has already decided to grow barley, they should consider a malt variety given good premiums and greater marketplace opportunities.
- The premium for malting barley over feed has historically bounced around the $1.00 per bushel mark. Assuming the same yield, on a quarter section of land at 75 bushels an acre, that’s an additional $12,000 of revenue with only a $1 premium. However, with the current short supply of malting barley this year, premiums offered by malting and grain companies for 2022 crop have been higher than average.
Currently contract opportunities are available for producers to lock in new crop malting barley prices around $8.00 per bushel or higher depending on the region.
- Producers will also have access to more marketplaces with a malt barley variety. Typically, Canada’s malting and grain companies select 2.0-3.0 million tonnes of malting barley annually. By choosing a malt variety, producers have access to both malting and feed markets, mitigating marketing and price risk.
- With very high input prices today, barley may be an especially attractive option economically in 2022. Producers can use their provincial crop calculators to estimate returns (see links below).
Strong Demand prospects for barley in 2022-23
- Production of barley in Canada and the U.S. in 2021 totaled 9.5 million tonnes compared with 14.5 million tonnes in 2020, a drop of 34% or 5 million tonnes. With carry-in stocks at the end of 2020-21 already at historically low levels, North American barley supplies will be all but depleted by harvest 2022, which will help support demand and prices for both malting and feed barley in the 2022-23 marketing season.
- While the feed sector can substitute other crops like corn, the malting industry requires malt barley varieties that have specific processing characteristics such as sufficient enzymes to modify starches into sugars. Typically, North American malting barley buyers purchase 5.0-5.5 million tonnes of selectable malting barley each year, around 20% of global use.
- The drought followed by rains at harvest in the summer of 2021 cut the supply of selectable malting barley by some 2 million tonnes, contributing to historically tight supplies and record prices for malt barley, particularly in North America but also globally. With 2022-23 Canadian malting barley carry-in stocks forecast at virtually nil, demand for Canadian malting barley has the potential to remain strong through the 2022-23 marketing season.
CHOOSING WHICH MALT BARLEY VARIETY TO GROW
- In addition to established varieties such as CDC Copeland and AAC Synergy, Canada has a suite of newer malting barley varieties including AAC Connect, CDC Fraser, CDC Bow, CDC Copper, CDC Churchill and AB BrewNet with strong agronomy and disease packages.
- The new varieties have been developed to meet end-use malting and brewing quality requirements with moderate protein content, high extract levels and plump kernels.
- AAC Connect and CDC Fraser are two of Canada’s promising new malting barley varieties that are gaining traction in the domestic and global malting and brewing industries. Both varieties are now accepted by many maltsters and brewers both domestically and in major international markets such as the United States and China. In 2021 the first cargoes of these two varieties were sold to China.
- Farmers are encouraged to consult their local maltster, grain company and/or seed supplier when deciding which malting barley to grow. Certain varieties tend to grow better in particular environments, and each malting and grain company has their preferred varieties for their customers.
- When growing a new variety, it is recommended that producers have a contract. They should talk to their local malting barley buyer about contracting programs, and at the same time inquire about any agronomic information in relation to their growing area.
See profiles of AAC Connect and CDC Fraser below.
MALTING BARLEY SEEDING & PRODUCTION RECOMMENDATIONS
Timing, Seeding Rates, Weed & Disease Management
- Early seeded barley tends to have a yield and quality advantage on the Prairies because the crop can capitalize on early spring moisture and avoid the risk of frost, cool and wet weather at the end of summer. Early seeded crops also tend to increase the likelihood of producing plump and uniform kernels.
- Seeding at 300 live seeds/m2 (28 seeds/ft2) optimizes yield and quality including improved kernel uniformity.
- Timing of harvest is very important with malting barley. Barley should be harvested at maturity as soon as possible – starting as early as 18% grain moisture content to preserve quality. Delays can rapidly impact quality due in particular to moisture. Late harvested barley tends to be less bright, have greater microbial load, and is more likely to have started the germination process and therefore have lower vigour (i.e. germination energy).
- Malting barley may require some additional steps and costs in terms production, such as fungicide spraying for FHB management, as well as harvest and storage considerations to ensure quality for selection, although the overall ROI should be higher with premiums for malt.
Certified or Farm Saved Seed; Varietal Purity
- The drought conditions in 2021 affected both commercial and pedigreed seed crops. Certified seed availability will vary by geography so farmers should speak to their local seed suppliers early. To find seed, producers can consult provincial seed guides, check the CSGA seed locator link or go directly to a seed company’s web site.
- Malting barley buyers recommend that producers use certified seed to help guarantee quality and purity, and to increase their chances of malt selection. However, with certified seed potentially in short supply in some areas, and prices at historically high levels, producers may choose to use their own farm grown seed.
- Regardless of the seed source, it is very important for producers to knowseed germination, thousand kernel weight and disease analysis,from an accredited lab to ensure seed is not diseased and to calculate appropriate seeding rates. Testing for varietal purity may also be prudent (see below).
- Most seed sellers will test for a thousand kernel weight and disease, so be sure to ask. It is also important to note that it is illegal for producers to sell or trade varieties protected with Plant Breeders Rights (PBRs). There are significant fines associated with selling PBR protected common seed for planting.
- End-users require a minimum 95% varietal purity, a producer risks not being selected if they do not meet this threshold. If a producer is concerned, they can have their barley tested for varietal purity. The industry recommends a 92 count seed test (as opposed to a 16 count). Producers can have their seed tested for purity by SGS for a cost of approximately $250 depending on the test.
Soil Testing for Soil Nutrient Levels & Herbicide Residues
- Producers should have their soils tested in order to optimize nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertility. The following is a helpful guide from Alberta Agriculture regarding soil testing. Producers can also find on-line fertilizer rate calculators like this one from Manitoba Agriculture.
- Depending on the amount of rainfall received in 2021, fields may have seen reduced fertilizer uptake resulting in higher-than-average residual nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in soils. It is therefore recommended that producers have their soil tested to ensure accurate application rates and increase potential for malt acceptance.
- Herbicide residues may be higher than normal after last summer’s drought. Barley may be more tolerant than other crops for which residual herbicide carry over is a concern. Be sure to consult with your chemical supplier to assess herbicide carryover risk to barley.
Crop Protection Products
- Farmers should refer to the Keep it Clean campaign regarding acceptable crop protection products for malting barley and feed barley. Pre-harvest desiccants and glyphosate are not accepted by the malting industry. Newly registered plant growth regulators in Canada may be accepted by some end-users, but farmers should check with their grain buyer before using these products.
“AAC Connect two row malting barley has the disease resistance and straw strength we look for to preserve malt quality. It’s the next level compared to the older varieties”
Gordon Moellenbeck – Englefeld, Saskatchewan
“We grew CDC Fraser in 2020 and had great results. With 105 bpa and absolutely zero lodging, we felt this next-generation variety was perfect to push fertility searching for maximum yields.”
Matt Enns – Rosthern, Saskatchewan
“In the 2020 growing season, we grew AAC Connect under irrigation. What impressed us was the great yield (125 bu/ac), low lodging and no disease. I believe that the potential is there to get an even greater yield with the tweaking of our fertility package.”
Dave Bishop – Barons, Alberta
PREPARING FOR 2022 SEEDING, THE CMBTC RECOMMENDS THAT PRODUCERS:
- Choose a malting barley variety to enable marketing opportunities for both the malting/brewing or feed sectors;
- Talk to their local maltster, grain buyer, seed grower, or the CMBTC, to discuss which varieties are most suitable to grow in their region;
- For newer malt varieties, secure a contract with a malting or grain company buyer;
- If using farm-saved seed, check seed quality at an accredited lab;
- Conduct soil tests for residual nutrient availability;
- Assess risk of residual herbicide carryover and choose low risk crop rotations, which may include barley.
Sources of Information
To find the most up-to-date information for each variety, refer to your province’s seed guide to find data and seed distributors. Variety selection should consider yield, agronomic and disease indicators that align with farm-specific needs.
See also the CMBTC’s recommended list for the list of barley varieties that have the greatest potential to be selected for malting.
Follow us at the CMBTC & MaltAcademy twitter feed @canadianbarley
The CMBTC does not offer advice or recommendations with respect to production or marketing decisions to the barley industry, and this information should not be construed as such.
Written November 8, 2021
The 2021 barley harvest in western Canada was largely wrapped up by the end of September this year, with the exception of a few areas such as the Peace which were completed in October. By all accounts 2021 was one of the worst growing seasons in a generation with dismal results in terms of both the quantity and quality of this year’s barley crop in western Canada. Statistics Canada’s Model based principal field crop estimates, released September 14, forecast average barley yields in Canada at 43.6 bushels per acre, down 38% from 2020 yields of 71.1 bushels and the lowest since the 2002 figure of 41.5 bushels per acre. Provincially, the estimates show Saskatchewan was the hardest hit with average yields pegged by StatCan at 35.1 bu/acre, quite similar to the province’s estimate of 34 bushels, or 52% of the 5-year average. Alberta fared a little better with yields estimated at 49.6 bushels per acre, 69% of the 5-year average, while Manitoba at an estimated 58.8 bushels would be at 84% of the 5-year average. However, the Alberta government estimated yields at 42.5 bushels in their October 5th report, well below StatCan, and as a result the StatCan final figures for Alberta, and Canada, may come down in the final report in December.
Estimated Yields in the Prairie Provinces
|5-Yr Ave (StatCan)||72.2||67.4||76.9||69.8|
|2021 (Prov. est)||42.5||34.0||N/a||–|
All Canada barley production is estimated by StatCan at 7.141 million tonnes, on par with 2014 of 7.118 mln tonnes, however seeded area that year was 5.97 mln acres compared with 8.30 mln acres in 2021, almost 30% lower. With respect to harvested area, StatCan has estimated that producers harvested 90.2% of barley seeded area this year compared with 91.8% in 2020. The seems a little optimistic under the circumstances, and given the 5-year average is 89.9%. In 2002, the last time there was wide spread drought on the Prairies, harvested area was 66% of seeded area. With the potential for both yields and harvested area to drop in StatCan’s final, survey-based estimates to be released on December 3rd, the industry will not be surprised to see a “6” as the first number of total Canadian barley crop output in 2021.
The result of the dry, hot growing season is a barley crop with very high protein content, reduced plump kernels and generally greater heterogeneity in the kernel size, as well as lower test weight. While the protein levels are virtually unprecedented, averaging above 14%, in the early tested barley that the industry has received, plumpness and test weights have not proven to be as bad as one might have predicted given the extraordinarily dry and hot growing conditions this past summer. This suggests that a combination of newer varieties, with apparent improved capacity to adapt and tolerate drought conditions, and modern production practices, appear to have mitigated at least some of the impact of the drought, which may have been much worse 20 years ago.
The table below shows the average results of barley quality in the samples received and evaluated from the western Canadian field trials to date. Among the 8 locations, protein content averaged 14.8% compared with an overall average from all 25 stations of 11.4% in 2020. Germination is well below last year, but close to the industry minimum standard of 95%, while water sensitivity is low. Thousand kernel weight and plumps, while below last year, are relatively good all things considered.
2021 Quality Results – Western Canadian Field Trials (Average of 10 varieties*)
|Moisture %||Protein %||Germination Energy %||1,000 k wt grams||Plumpness %**||RVA***|
*Varieties grown in trials include AC Metcalfe, CDC Copeland, AAC Synergy, AAC Connect, CDC Fraser, CDC Bow, Lowe, CDC Copper, CDC Churchill, TR17255.
**Percent of kernels over 6/64″ sieve.
***Rapid Visco Analysis – An indication of pre-harvest sprout (PHS) damage. Lower values indicate greater presence of PHS.
But this year, growers and maltsters have another issue to contend with. To add insult to injury, after two months of virtually no precipitation in much of the Prairies, suffering under a phenomenon known as a “heat dome”, rain and in some cases hail arrived in the third week of August, further reducing the potential supply of useable malting barley in western Canada as barley that was in the swath or even standing in the field, started to germinate resulting in significant pre-harvest sprout damage (PHSD). When sprouting occurs, it triggers an increase in alpha-amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch in the barley kernel. While malting barley can still be used when there is a small amount of PHSD, if the process has gone too far the barley will be unusable by maltsters due to factors such as loss of germination, uneven water-uptake and poor growth during processing. Interestingly, the RVAs, which is an indication of PDSD, are actually quite high in the samples received at the CMBTC to date, which suggests that these locations were either harvested before the rains, or were not subject to the moisture at harvest time that other areas received.
In other years, when quality challenges arise, the malting industry would typically be able to rely in part on the carry in stocks from the previous growing season to blend and mitigate the worst impacts for at least the first portion of the marketing season. However, with record low carry out stocks of 500,000 coming into 2021 after the largest export program over 25 years, there is very little 2020 crop left to blend creating the perfect storm. The end result is that there simply isn’t enough quality malting barley to supply Canada’s malting industry in the 2021-22 marketing year. This means the industry will have to resort to pushing the limits on the quality of the barley they select and process, employ extraordinarily sophisticated and precise approaches to evaluation and processing, and look at innovative techniques in manufacturing and blending to achieve the best possible malt products under the circumstances. In spite of this, malt processors may ultimately have to reduce their production and sales program, and in some cases resort to imported malting barley.
In summary, the quality characteristics of the 2021 malting barley crop will make for an extremely challenging year for maltsters and brewers alike to process and achieve quality end products. All told, this will be one of the most difficult years Canada’s barley value chain has ever seen.
2020 was a difficult year for the global brewing industry. While estimates vary, there is general agreement that world beer production was down between 7-10% this past year. Certain regions were particularly hard hit such as Africa, Asia and Europe with output drops in the order of 10-15%, while North and South America fared better with production down 2-5%. In China, the world’s largest brewer, production is estimated to have fallen by 8-10%, or 30-35 million hectolitres. To put that in perspective, total Canadian beer production is around 20 million hectolitres. In Japan, beer sales reportedly dropped 9% in 2020, while in Vietnam beer production is estimated to have fallen 14%. Mexico, which shuttered breweries for over 2 months during the April-June period last year, saw a production drop of about 5%.
Europe was also hard hit with production estimated to have fallen overall by 9%. In contrast, the impact on total beer output in Canada and the United states was less pronounced with production estimated to have fallen by only 2-3%. A dramatic increase in retail sales in the U.S. and Canada made up for a substantial portion of the drop in on-premise sales, sales at concerts and sporting events etc. This resulted in a major increase in sales of canned, and to a lesser extent bottled, beer (leading to a shortage in aluminum cans) although there was a corresponding dramatic drop in keg sales. In Canada, beer sales volumes dropped by less that 1% in 2020 compared with 2019 according to Beer Canada data.
Looking forward, the recovery in 2021 has already begun in many parts of the world. China’s beer production is estimated to have recovered to close to pre-pandemic levels already, and similarly in Europe things are improving. However the consensus is that in many countries, 2021 will be a year of gaining back sales lost in 2020 to return to 2019 levels as opposed to a year of growth. As one malting industry representative commented recently, while we haven’t turned the corner yet, at least we can see it.
The plant growth regulator chlormequat chloride (Manipulator) has been updated to Yellow/Be Informed under Keep it Clean for use on all Barley in Canada (malt, feed and food). Malting barley had previously been classified as yellow. This classification is a signal to producers to check with their grain buyers before using Manipulator on barley to ensure it will be accepted. Most malting companies and some grain companies have signaled they will not accept barley treated with Manipulator. Manipulator is classified as green/acceptable for wheat and oats.
Opportunities for New Canadian Malting Barley Varieties
CDC Bow, AAC Connect & CDC Fraser
Canada’s barley breeders have developed a promising suite of new malting barley varieties such as CDC Bow, AAC Connect and CDC Fraser each with excellent agronomics and disease resistance. These new varieties are poised to succeed older, established varieties such as AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland. They have very desirable malting and brewing characteristics, reinforcing Canada’s position as a supplier of premium quality barley and malt, and increasingly these new varieties are being accepted by domestic and international maltsters and brewers.
Click the link below to see the CMBTC’s 2021 malting barley seeding considerations with regard to variety selection, yield potential, lodging and protein targets.
Each year, the CMBTC hosts customers of Canadian malting barley and malt for new crop tours to see the barley near the end of the growing season and during harvest, meet the farmers that grow their barley, and the industry that delivers it. Given in the summer of 2020 we were not able to host a new crop tour, we put together this video to give customers a sense of the crop year, and have the opportunity to see some images of the 2020 Canadian malting barley crop and hear from some of the farmers. Enjoy!
See other videos at our CMBTC YouTube channel below.
Given we are all stuck at home these days, spend a few minutes enjoying some great beer videos!
In a normal summer, in partnership with our stakeholders, the CMBTC would typically host a new crop tour with customers from around the world. During the tour, we would generally visit farms in Alberta or Saskatchewan, check out malting barley research plots, and visit other points along the value chain such as an elevator, a malt plant or a breeding centre. Since it was not possible to do a physical tour this year, we created this web page to provide customers with a virtual tour of the 2020 western Canadian barley crop year and harvest. Check it out and enjoy!